Follow TV Tropes


Part-Time Hero

Go To

"So now that you've saved the world, what do you want to do today?"
“Same thing we do every night, Pinky — patch Windows Vista.”
Commenters on Wapsi Square

A Part-Time Hero is a hero who wants to save the world, and make sure the folk can be happy and alive, but who also wants a normal life.

They're going to balance fighting off those Demonic Invaders with their everyday activities, such as studies, their job and/or dating. They're going to have episodes, even entire arcs dedicated to resenting their double life (particularly their fighting evil side cutting into their personal time). This is a very popular trope in Anime, especially for Magical Girls (who have to balance their duties as heroines against the joys of homework and getting up to go to school in the morning).

This often includes the Superhero with a Secret Identity, but not all of them. Spider-Man is more of an example than Batman is. Includes all Wake Up, Go to School & Save the World series, of course.

Compare Punch-Clock Villain and The One with a Personal Life. Contrast the Punch-Clock Hero, who seems similar at first but is far less heroic when not, well, being a hero.


    open/close all folders 

     Anime and Manga  
  • Sailor Moon wants so badly to go back to being normal that at the end of the first season, she uses the power of her newly acquired MacGuffin to wipe everybody's memories that anything had ever happened, turning her entire team back to normal. (Unfortunately, the Sorting Algorithm of Evil applied, and she was soon forced to undo this.)
  • Magic Knight Rayearth: Ryuuzaki Umi, one of the heroines, spends a considerable amount of time throughout the first season of the show whining about how she's going to miss an important fencing tournament if they don't finish up and get home Right Now. And when they get back to earth, it's clear that only a couple of minutes (if that) have passed. The second trip (in Rayearth II) "took" a couple of days, but they still spent more time than that in Cephiro.
  • Bleach: Ichigo isn't too fond of being a shinigami. Notably, he generally prefers not to get actively involved, and it takes someone to be in danger right in front of him or for one of his friends to be under threat to drag him into the fray. Thankfully for the continuation of the series, something always seems to drag him out of the classroom and back into his Shinigami robes. His tune changes once he actually loses his powers, and can no longer help his friends.
  • Saint Seiya: Episode.G Assassin: the Bronze Saints are still active, yet also have normal jobs. Shun is a doctor, Hyoga a bartender.

    Comic Books 
  • Disney Mouse and Duck Comics: This is a common problem among many of the franchise's superheroes in general and Paperinik (Donald Duck) in particular, as they have to balance their civilian lives with their superheroing. The only one who has it (relatively) easy is Super Goof, as Mickey knows his Secret Identity and is more than willing to cover for him with the others.
  • Spider-Girl: Just like her father, May Parker has real problems with this. Her Superhero career tends to completely screw her civilian life, especially her attention span in school.
  • Spider-Man: Peter Parker had this in the teenage and college days of his career as Spider-Man. Most spin-offs and reboots have this as a focus point to the point where many people refer to it as the "Spider-Man dilemma".
  • Superlópez: In the early short stories especially, a lot of the comedy revolved around Superlopez struggling not to blow his cover as a nondescript office worker, or simply trying to keep his job despite being constantly off crime fighting.
  • Superman: Superman has been portrayed this way Depending on the Writer.

  • Paul Kersey from Death Wish maintained his work as an architect up through and including Death Wish IV: The Crackdown. Unusually for a plain clothes adventurer of 1970s and 1980s film, Paul Kersey did in fact maintain a dual identity/alter ego, since the general public did not know that Paul Kersey acted as the vigilante and Kersey continued his work as an architect while acting as a vigilante. In fact, his nightly prowls to find muggers to slay caused him to miss calls from business associates, who civilly asked him about this situation.

  • Mercy Thompson: Mercy has to keep up her job as a car mechanic while fighting whatever supernatural horror is threatening her friends this time. You know things are serious when she asks her ex-boss to run the shop for a day.

     Live Action TV  
  • The three sisters in Charmed spend a lot of time complaining about their duties conflicting with their personal lives. Half of the time the villains have to walk up to their front door for them to even pay attention.
  • Chuck Bartowski of Chuck is constantly forced to renege on personal commitments because national security is at stake.
  • Sydney Bristow from Alias tries this valiantly for the first few seasons. Ultimately, all her non-spy friends are either brought into the conspiracy or murdered, so she goes all-in for the remainder.
  • Pretty much everyone in Heroes. It's common to see a character actually on the clock at a normal job, sometimes with their powers somehow woven into it. Though naturally, as a particular arc progresses, they gradually transition from part-time to full-time hero as the B, C, and D plots related to their personal lives are woven into (or pushed aside for) the main story arc. No matter how much they resist.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer has this all over. Not just for the titular character, but almost everybody who gets involved in fighting the forces of evil.
    Forest: This is the burden we bear, brother. We have a gig that would inevitably cause any girl living to think we are cool upon cool, yet we must Clark Kent our way through the dating scene, never to use our unfair advantage. Thank God we're pretty.
    • Spin-Off series Angel averts it by making the Hero gig his full-time job. It might even be an inversion as some episodes deal with his friends and staff trying to force him to have some kind of personal life so he doesn't completely lose touch with actual humanity.
  • In Doctor Who, this forms Clara's concept in Season 8 - she is trying to balance her travels with the Doctor with her mundane schoolteacher job and her relationship with her boyfriend (who has a frosty relationship with the Doctor).

     Tabletop Games  
  • Common to the point of default in the Teen Champions subgenre book.

     Video Games 

     Web Comics  
  • Bob in The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob! is self-employed at his newsstand, and it's a good thing, considering how often he ends up missing work. His customer Mr. Bystander seems to exist mainly to berate him for this.

     Web Original  
  • Whateley Universe: All of the kids in Team Kimba, since they're at the Super Hero School Whateley Academy in the webfiction 'verse, and they're not supposed to be getting into superhero fights since they're minors. And they have classes they're not supposed to cut.

     Western Animation  
  • Kim Possible has this as an open secret, as everyone knows she's off "saving the world" when having to ditch cheer-leading.
  • Terry in Batman Beyond does resent the loss of his free time due to fighting villains, and there's considerable friction between him and Bruce, who treats normal life as simply a cover for crime fighting, since he started identifying foremost as Batman long ago and keeps doing so despite never physically putting it on for forty years.
  • Virgil from Static Shock has been conflicted with this problem more often than not, to near Spider-Man levels. He even once has a near complete power loss, and puts his life back on track, until it turns out that Static is needed in Dakota more than Virgil thought. And in the end, he realizes that being able to help people is worth the loss of his personal free time.
  • Largely avoided on Wonder Pets!. In one story, the Wonder Pets take time off to join the circus and in another, they take a vacation. In both stories, however, they actually end up saving an animal. Also, they are generally always ready, willing and able to save animals, though Ming-Ming can sometimes be grouchy.
  • In Danny Phantom, the titular character prefers spending time with his friends, and once even split himself into two separate beings to try and keep a promise to them. He also has to try and balance out the responsibilities he has between his school work and protecting Amity Park, even if he does enjoy the latter at times. Unlike most examples of this trope, when Danny loses his powers in the series finale, he's more than happy to be a normal teenager again. It's only when it becomes clear that absolutely no one else can save the Earth in time that he decides to re-enter the fray, accidentally regaining his powers in the process.
  • Happy Tree Friends: Splendid. This is probably a good thing.
  • The titular Penn Zero from Penn Zero: Part-Time Hero, who got the job after his parents (who were also part-time heroes) got trapped in an unreachable plane of existence known as "The Most Dangerous Place Imaginable". His job has him zap to different dimensions to save the day when the native heroes of that world are unable to accomplish the task themselves, with his friends Boone and Sashi coming along for the ride as well. The trio usually find themselves fighting the Punch-Clock Villain duo Rippen and Larry, who do the same thing... but for villains. Obviously.

     Real Life  
  • Every Reserve and Militia group in the world, though they can be upgraded to full time heroes.
  • Volunteer firefighters and Emergency Medical Technicians.
  • Lifeguards can be this, summer at the beach earning money, rest of year back at school earning a degree.
  • Any musician/music group who opts out of regular touring can be seen as this.